Sunday, 29 January 2017

Amalgamated Conservation Society Missive to DFO Minister, 1967

Hi Everyone, here is another blast from the past in our sport. Time moves on, but many problems remain the same. Please excuse any weak text, as this was from a CD document that was photographs that had to be photographed again and then manipulated back into text, not always successful, some gibberish.

Here is the AGCs: Urgent Call for a 2-Mile Net-Free Reserve in Juan de Fuca Strait, 1967.

The Amalgamated Conservation Society maintains there is a serious problem in the sports fishery in areas 17, 18, 19 and 20. We point out also that the two departments, i.e. Federal and Provincial Fisheries, are also on record as stating there is definitely a serious problem.

On the Provincial level, after a study of the situation, Hr. R. McMinn in his report states:

“In Southern Vancouver Island waters the sportsmen’s share of chinook and coho salmon has decreased significantly in the last few years. In these waters, it appears that if sport or commercial catches of chinook and coho are to increase, it will have to be either at the expense of the other fishery or as a result of increased salmon production because, at the moment, there appears to be an inverse relationship between commercial and sport catches of chinook and coho (when one goes up the other goes down).”

That there has been a marked decline in coho catches by sports and putter fishermen in Juan de Fuca Strait co-incidental with the build up of the net fleet in Juan de Fuca since 1957 and particularly since 1960 can be confirmed by sports and putter fishermen who fished that area before the wall of nets.

The Federal Fisheries department has absolutely no figures (from lack of studies) to back up or deny these facts and it is 10 years too late for them to start now to make a comparison. Although the sports catch effort has increased 100% in the last 7 or 8 years, our catch has not risen but has taken a tremendous decrease.

We would point out that the proposal for a 2-mile net free reserve is a compromise between sports fishermen and commercial interests after several other efforts for a solution.

First it was asked that the net fleet be cut to at least half the boats of the 1960 fleet or that netters from both countries be pulled back from Juan de Fuca Strait to do their fishing closer to river mouths where they could be rigidly controlled and specific salmon runs could be protected. Then, because of the consideration that Canadian commercial fishermen had the advantage in Juan de Fuca Straits at getting first crack at getting American fish, a 1-mile corridor was proposed.

Commercial men claimed this was too great a hardship on them and the compromise of a 2-mile net free salmon reserve was proposed by the Amalgamated Conservation Society. This is the absolute minimum to bring any relief to sports fishermen and this would have to be continuous to be effective. 

For enforcement, net fishermen are used to boundaries. The international boundary is patrolled now and there is little trouble with the ocean surf line up and down the whole coast. We also point out that the Americans have a 3-mile net reserve and they control it - why can't we?

There are many sport fishing regulations that are being enforced to the limit; example - Saanich Inlet. If we can regulate all the other restrictions, then why not the corridor? We would reiterate, if enforcement becomes an insurmountable hurdle, then we are certainly moving backwards instead of up-dating to handle situations regarding our natural resources that are bound to appear as our country expands.

The sports fishermen are asking that a 2-mile net free reserve be established for a trial period starting this season (1967) when it is feared that the expected pre­ponderance of netters over big runs of pinks and Sockeye could do most harm conservation-­wise to coho.

The fisheries department could then undertake a positive statistical study to prove the worth of the net free reserve. The start of this is shown through a telegram sent to the department, at the entrance this year, netters caught nearly 400,000 coho while sports fishermen immediately behind the net line in area nineteen end twenty caught less than 200 coho, Labour Day weekend. The three-day sport fishing derby in Victoria area saw 400 sports fishermen catch only 12 coho while commercial netters during the same week caught 132,148.

What is going to happen to us this year when they are going to allow 4 days netting per week?
It has been said that there is no evidence that salmon migrating through Juan de Fuca Straits ever made a fishery, and yet in the Progress Summary of the Juan de Fuca Chinook end Coho Salmon Investigation put out by the federal government it states: "The sport catch of coho salmon in this region is primarily:

1. A late fall to early spring grilse fishery mainly in Saanich Inlet.
2. The harvest of adult coho passing through this area from outside waters.
3. The harvest of fall coho in the Cowichan Bay area.”

The fact that there is no documentary evidence in the Juan de Fuca area lies with the fisheries department in that there has been little or no study or research carried out in relation to the sports fishery.

We are prepared to produce any number of sworn affidavits by sports fishermen who met with outstanding success during pre-netting years and have experienced the decline since the build-up of the net fishery.

It has also been said that the commercial troll fishery in this area does not exist because, due to the change in feeding habits, the fish will not take. We suggest that the troll fishery in this area does not exist because better harvests naturally can be obtained by trollers in Swiftsure and Big Bank area where they meet fish on their way in and it stands to reason that it is better to harvest the pool of two million fish before the nets get at them rather than a pool of one million after the nets have taken their harvest, plus spooked the remainder. In addition, the trollers, by moving out further, have a chance at American coho moving toward the Columbia and Westport, etc.

Also, with regard to the contention that mature fish cannot be taken by troll, we point out that the putter fleet at Bamfield who now fish ahead of the net lines, have harvested fantastic amount of mature coho. The sportsmen have success in Cowichan Bay, Oyster river, etc. and these are mature fish.

Sports fishermen believe that the wall of nets skim off the surface fish which they have been used to catching and drives others deeper beyond the reach of sports fishermen. We have maintained for several years that area 20 in Juan de Fuca Strait is a collect­ing and feeding area for coho salmon preparing for their migration to inland waters.

Here are a few passages from the State of Washington Department of Fisheries book published in February, 1960: The treaty ban on ocean net fishing as drawn restricted U.S. fishermen from fishing the ocean outside the three-mile limit off Port San Juan, Pachena area, along Vancouver Island, and the area south and westward of Tatoosh Island. The Bonilla/Tatoosh line in effect gave Canadian fishermen in the newly developing fishing area a distinct advantage over U.S. fishermen in the Strait fishery for the following reasons:

The natural conditions prevailing in the area off the Canadian shore inside the Bonilla/Tatoosh line, in contrast to conditions prevailing along the Washington shore, provide for a large-scale mingling of races and stocks of salmon collected in the area prior to their migration to spawning streams along the coast of Washington, east in the Strait and lower Puget Sound and to the Gulf of Georgia and Fraser River areas. This area also embraces the major migratory route of salmon stocks migrating eastward. Thus this area provides an ocean fishery for Canadian fishermen while Amer1can fishermen fishing for the same species are largely confined to an area 70 to 80 miles further inside the Strait.

Joint investigations by the Canadian and American agencies demonstrated the following:

1.     Racial composition of salmon from Swiftsure lightship to Pillar Point inside the Strait of Juan de Fuca (comprising the study area) are the same and made up of numerous races. They originate to the greatest extent from Puget Sound and the Gulf of Georgia and to a lesser degree from Oregon, Washington and British Columbia coastal streams.

2. Silvers mill about in the Bonilla-Tatoosh area from June until September with early races moving into Puget Sound during July and August.

We think these statements back up our beliefs.

Many people believe that if you have a 4-day fishery and lift the nets for 3 days that three sevenths of the fish will pass through. This is not the case; many of these coho move around in Area 20 and perhaps are in the area several days or even weeks before they move on. We suggest the fish that evade the solid wall of nets are spooked and travel past the lower island and are deep or outside, beyond the each of sports fishermen.

In fact, last September some of our sports fishermen ventured out past Race Rocks with hand lines and five-pound weights and had little problem limiting out on mature coho in 20 and 25 fathoms of water. Unfortunately, this is not sports fishing and is no answer to our problem. We know the coho are passing through our waters outside and deep. These are our spawning escapement but they are completely useless to the sports fishery.

The 2-mile net free move would allow a proportion of the fish to come through in an unmolested stream of sufficient numbers to allow hook and line fishermen to have a reason­able amount of success and a comparatively equitable share of this, their historic fishery.

The problems are twofold and one is very important for the conservation and preservation of coho runs. We feel that indiscriminate netting is wiping out specific runs of early coho which mill around and are subjected to netting, week after week.

We accept the fact that large escapements travel through Juan de Fuca Strait. These are late run ocean type coho destined for large river systems, Fraser etc., but the earlier run coho destined for smaller gulf rivers, as well as the bigger rivers, has decreased tremendously due to the unselective Juan de Fuca fishery.

The average commercial catch of the early run summer coho (to September 1st) in the Strait of Juan de Fuca has declined from 70% (1951-58) to 43% (1959-04) of the total catch, a decline of nearly 30%.

A serious decline in the sports catch in Southern Vancouver Island waters confirms this fact (ref. Page 101, R. McMinn report).

A decline of 80% in the coho escapements of the Goldstream, Chemainus and Nanaimo Rivers after the expansion of the herring and salmon net fisheries in these waters are evident. Good commercial catches of the late migrating fall coho (after September 1st) in the Juan de Fuca Strait and good escapements of this stock into the Cowichan River does not eliminate the responsibility of ensuring adequate stocks of the resident type smaller coho on which to a great extent the many million dollar sport fishing industry depends.

The argument that a Bonilla net free reserve could seriously restrict a major Canadian net fishery in Area 19 is not reasonable as many salmon as before, can be taken with additional netting time allowed as compensation if necessary.

The troll-free zone would not hamper the international fishing agreement as under the terms of the convention there is a 50-50 split.

We stress the urgency of the 2-mile net free reserve in 1967 because of the anticipated double the number of netting days and a bigger fleet of net boats then ever before to fish over forecast fantastic runs of sockeye and pinks with absolutely no consideration by the International Pacific Salmon Commission of Coho and Spring Salmon for conservation or for sports fishermen.

Sunday, 22 January 2017

Dead Reckoning

Dead reckoning is the process of determining where you are based on a known past position and advancing from where you are to where you want to go. GPS systems have pretty much done away with dead reckoning for day boaters because they give latitude and longitude, distance to and from intended ports, and show the boat among land features on the screen.

But if the GPS kicks the bucket, you don’t have charts and you can’t see land – in fog, for instance – be prepared to dead reckon. Your humble compass and boat speed are all you need in faster boats.

Finding your way home in Faster Planing boats

In a power boat that moves far faster than the speed of off-course drift, it is a simple matter of turning the boat 180 degrees to the return bearing and traveling at a set planing speed. If you are traveling at 26 kph, for example, you will be back near a port 13 km away in 30 minutes (Most speedometers also read in mph, and so a set time can also be calculated for mph, the same being true for speedometers in knots). Do remember to pull up on the throttle before shore leaps out of the fog to grab you.

Finding your way home in Slower Displacement Hull Boats

Estimate your position immediately because your boat is drifting off course based on water current, wind direction and boat speed. The sooner you say, I think I am 13 km from port, the more likely you are close to that spot you plot on your chart.

Determine speed the old-fashioned way: tie a bucket to a line of known distance, throw it over board and stop your watch when the line is taut. That gives you metres per minute, say, and thus speed.

The compass rose on the chart will give you your return bearing. Divide the distance from your position to port by speed and you have the hours to reach it. Charts also give speed and direction of currents and so, accounting for that and wind, you can plot a drift-adjusted course to arrive at a better estimation of where you will end up.

Better Yet, Be Prepared

A boater should always have paper charts and a compass, even on a boat with a GPS. Before each trip, sit down and calculate the distance between ports. Divide this distance by boat speed and you have the hours it will take to do the trip. 

And if you have been fishing for hours in fog, and didn’t catch your GPS going down, it may be wiser to sit tight until it clears because you may not have a very good idea of where you are. Before I had a GPS, I once ended up off Lopez Island in the US San Juans for this reason. I didn’t realize how far I had drifted on the flood from the Quarantine Buoy near Constance Bank, where I had started fishing, and thus my dead reckoning was many miles wrong. I got a compass bearing from someone’s fishing charts on the US side and headed back on it, only to have engine problems as I almost hit Discovery Island. I radioed Oak Bay Marina for a compass bearing home, and with my kicker at top rpms, got drifted south into the fog and finally had to radio for a tow in. Most embarrassing.

Alive or Dead from Dead Reckoning

I and my significant other – not a boater – had the scare of a lifetime doing dead reckoning in the fog. Heading for La Conner, I had done a dead reckoning calculation – ahead of time – from Discovery Island to the south tip of Lopez, one hour 13 minutes at a set speed.

On the way across, we passed over the wake of a freighter, something that haunts me to this day. We were very fortunate not to run into it, and have been killed. Also, trying to keep on course with a compass at planning speed is very hard because the needle swings from left to right, back and across the compass bearing you want. The result is making a lot of corrections, either to port or starboard, on gut instinct, to stay on course.

At one hour, I opened the front hatch and strained to see Lopez. Mist settled on my glasses and so my partner, behind the window, actually saw the shoreline before I did. I was standing left hand on the wheel, and right hand on the throttle. Yanking back on the gas, we ended up through the kelp bed and far too close to the rocks.

I backed us out, and followed the shore visually until we hit the south end a half mile later. In other words, dead reckoning was off by half a mile because of the flood tide, as we did indeed come on land after one hour 13 minutes.

But the tale did not end there. I had dead reckoned Lopez to Deception Pass at 12 minutes on a particular heading and speed. And away we went, compass needle swinging back and forth. On the Whidbey Island side, after 12 minutes, I almost ran into someone fishing in the fog. From their charts, I was given another compass bearing angling north, as in I had almost hit the wall a mile south of the channel – in only 12 minutes.

We passed through Deception safely, but that wasn’t the end of the tale. Following my charts, I was going to stay on a contour line until I picked up the channel markers for La Conner, the line of which I had seen on another trip south. Again at planning speed, I had another heart attack, when out of the fog, a ferry rose up like a wall and past back into the fog across my path. It didn’t see me. And again, we were lucky.

The only real luck was that I came right upon the deepest marker where I anticipated it – if you look at the contours on the chart, going closer to shore there is a wide apron of less than 25 feet deep in that area. So keeping just off the ledge line, you should, as we did, luckily, come on the marker, and follow the channel to the docks of our hotel on the inside passage.

As I heaved a sigh of relief, and we were trundling our bags up the dock, we passed a woman so drunk, not only could she not stand up, talking was out of the question, as her head hung low. She was being assisted by two guys, one under each arm pit, and her feet were actually dragging on the wharf behind her.

It turned out that they had left Anacortes and become disoriented in Fidalgo Bay, where the north entrance to Swinomish Channel starts. So, they opted to drift until the fog disappeared and then find the channel. They had drunk so much hard liquor that while the guys were plastered, the woman was FUBARed as the expression goes.

I was able, as the person responsible for our safety, to go through an enormous amount of adrenaline, and as wide awake as possible, get us to port. And there were those lucky things as well. But these people, would simply have been mowed down by a larger boat, so drunk they were. Or they would have presented themselves to a boat like mine, coming out of the fog in a split second, where they would not have been expected and killed us all.

This also turned out to be they day that Princess Diana died. And it is commemorated as a humdinger of a sex poem in, The Hunger, my third book of poems, as The Day Diana Died. May all your fog-shrouded expeditions end in a warm safe place.


Here is the chart of Sinomish Channel, La Conner and Anacortes: